The Snake and the ’Skins

Monday July 13th, 2015

Well, saddle up. Time to get back on the football merry-go-round. Days till first training camp practices (in Mankato, Minn., and Latrobe, Pa.): 13. Days till first preseason game (in Canton): 27. Days till Steelers-Pats opener of the NFL’s 96th season: 59.

 

The NFL’s still slumbering, with most teams away for another week or so. I’d like to thank my Monday column subs over the past month—Jenny Vrentas and Robert Klemko and Andrew Brandt of The MMQBand long-snapper/American icon Nate Boyer of the Seattle Seahawks—for allowing me to research my Beernerdness section so diligently and to go to bed early on four straight Sundays. I could get used to that. Take a bow, folks. You were terrific.

 

This is my 32nd season covering pro football, and 19th writing this column. So many compelling stories on the way. We’ll have time next week to get to some of the nitty-gritty camp issues, and we’ll hit the Tom Brady appeal hard when that verdict comes out. Other than the Brady story and the reduction of the Greg Hardy suspension and the bizarro and ill-fated fascination of fireworks by a couple players, it hasn’t been a particularly newsy month away. We’ll get to those news bits later in the column. But the two things that struck me over the past few days were the death of Ken Stabler and the story that never goes away—but should—of the Washington team name controversy. Let’s lead with those this week.

 

The Snake, analyzed.

 

 

The MMQB: Guest Columns
While on vacation the past few weeks, Peter King handed the keys to his Monday Morning Quarterback column to a series of guest columnists.
 
 
Andrew Brandt: From Rome, a lookback on the NFL’s previous overseas forays.
 
FULL STORY
 
 
Nate Boyer: On the dream of a 34-year-old Green Beret trying to make the Seahawks.
 
FULL STORY
 
 
Robert Klemko: On Charleston, Rob Gronkowski and the Steelers’ successful bust.
 
FULL STORY
 
 
 
Jenny Vrentas: On Carson Palmer, Mike Tannenbaum and inside HBO’s new show.
 
FULL STORY
 

Ken Stabler, the Oakland/Houston/New Orleans quarterback who is doubtless one of the most colorful characters in NFL history (just read this 1977 Sports Illustrated story if you’ve got any questions), died last week of colon cancer. He was 69. Most of his football friends had no idea he was that ill.

 

 

In the wake of his death, a fervent debate has been re-ignited: Should Stabler be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame? It’s a difficult question to answer. As a Hall of Fame voter, I'll say Stabler’s case has come up a few times over the years and I could never get very worked up about it. Stabler, to me, is a borderline candidate from a very difficult time to judge the worthiness of quarterbacks because QB stats from 40 years ago can be so misleading. I’ll give you some of the arguments I’ve heard over the years and in recent days, and then give you my thoughts.

 

Argument: Stabler’s on the 1970s all-decade team, so that should merit inclusion on its own. The Team of the 1970s, as voted by the Pro Football Hall of Fame voters at the end of the decade, actually had Roger Staubach as the number one quarterback, with 13 votes. Terry Bradshaw and Stabler were next, with three votes apiece. Right or wrong, nine players from the first and second teams of that group are not in Canton. I’ve never thought that because you were voted to an all-decade team it should be an automatic ticket to the Hall. What happens if, in some decade, the third and fourth guards, or the third and fourth outside linebackers, were very close in votes and ability to the fourth or fifth players at their positions?

 

Argument: Nobody personified the Raiders more than the wild Stabler, and he led a great franchise to some of its greatest moments. No question about it. He led the Raiders to the Super Bowl win in the 1976 season and had some great games when the stakes were highest. So shouldn’t the rollicking quarterback of this rebel football team be in the Hall? From 1973, when he took over the starting job, Stabler quarterbacked the Raiders to a 50-11-1 regular-season record over five years. That five-year stretch is easily his biggest argument for enshrinement, and if he ever gets in, I’d point to that and say, “You’ve got to be pretty good to win 50 out of 62.”

 

Argument: If Joe Namath is in, Stabler should be in. Here’s where stats get screwy and, to me, unimportant. Namath was a more prolific passer (197.6 passing yards per game, to Stabler’s 151.8) but not the winner Stabler was. (Namath: 62-63-4; Stabler: 96-49-1.) Each won one Super Bowl. But I’ve always thought Namath should be in because of his importance in football history. 

 

He was the first glamorous football player. He made the American Football League matter, with his huge contract and his Broadway Joe fame. And he had perhaps the most significant pro football victory ever, the shocking upset of the Colts in Super Bowl III that catapulted the AFL to near-equality with the NFL. The leagues soon merged. So I’ve always felt Namath belonged because of his historic importance. I think he occupies a unique space in football history. (I was not a voter in 1985, when he was elected.) 

 

Now, as voters, we’re supposed to consider what a player does on the field, not anything else. But Namath was so good so early in his career, with the charisma of a leader that was so valuable on the field, that New York and a competing league got smitten with him, and that style and competitiveness and ability all contributed to his greatness.

 

 

Among recent quarterbacks under Hall consideration, Kurt Warner had the strangest career—he came from stocking shelves to the NFL and had two bookend great runs surrounding a five-year donut hole mid-career. But Stabler’s career was exceedingly odd. It’s almost a career in quartiles:

 

 

 

 

 

  • 1968 to 1972: The JV Years. On the bench behind Daryle Lamonica and George Blanda, mostly. Just two starts in five years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • 1973 to 1977: The Golden Years. Leads the Raiders to the playoffs for five straight years, demolishes the Vikings to win a world title in January 1977, and twice leads the league in touchdown passes and passing accuracy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • 1978 to 1980: The Divorce. After going 9-7 in both ’78 and ’79 and throwing 52 interceptions over those years, Stabler is traded by Al Davis to Houston for Dan Pastorini. Stabler never wins another playoff game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • 1981 to 1984: The End. Doesn’t have a winning season, and the interceptions keep coming. Considering how hard Stabler lived off the field, it’s amazing he started 14 games at age 38 for the Saints in 1983.

 

So that’s five great seasons. Five. Look at his next three. It’s true you can’t overrate numbers and compare the players of the ’70s to the players of today by stats. But in the three seasons after those five sublime ones, Stabler threw 80 interceptions. That has to count for something.

 

I believe the Hall of Fame, in the vast majority of cases, has to be about sustained greatness. Stabler was great for five seasons. Some people would say that’s enough, along with the Super Bowl victory and being the greatest quarterback the Raiders have had. And I think it’s a good argument. For me, it’s just not a winning one.

 

 

 

Raymond Boyd/Getty Images Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

 

 

Be leaders: Change the name.

 

When I watched the governor of South Carolina eloquently speak about what a great day it was for the people of the state that the Confederate flag would no longer fly over the state capitol, I thought what a great job the leaders of that state had done in framing the divisive issue. A good percentage of South Carolina citizens felt the Confederate flag was a slap in the face to the African-Americans of the state—and to so many others who found the flag an offensive reminder of segregation. And so Gov. Nikki Haley and a cadre of smart political leaders, in the wake of the race-related murders of nine black churchgoers, finally got rid of the flag.

 

Then I thought of the Washington team name and wondered: Why is it taking so long for the right thing to happen in football?

 

 

The Battle of Washington
 
 
Daniel Snyder says it honors the heritage of Native Americans; critics consider it nothing less than a racist slur. In April 2014, The MMQB set out to gauge the real sentiment regarding the name ‘Redskins’ among Native American leaders and in grass-roots tribal communities around the country. The short answer: It’s complicated.
 
FULL STORY
 
 

Clearly, the name of the team is offensive to a swath of American society, and particularly to many Native Americans. (I stopped using the name “Redskins” 23 months ago because it’s an insult to so many, but I wanted to be clear in this item; thus the one-time use.) And last week the name was in the news again. A federal judge in northern Virginia confirmed the legality of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s decision to cancel the team’s trademarks, effectively saying the patent office was correct in saying the team name may be disparaging to Native Americans.

 

 

The team can still use the name, and certainly will. “We look forward to winning on appeal after a fair and impartial review of the case,” said club president Bruce Allen. The federal trademark cancellations wouldn't be enforced until the team exhausts the appeals process in the federal courts, but if and when that happens, not having recourse in the federal courts against trademark infringers will make it more complicated for the team to stop the selling of knockoff T-shirts or hats, especially if those goods are being imported from other countries. That sets a dangerous precedent for a league and a franchise that are such excellent merchandisers.

 

The team will continue to fight brushfires like this one. The league, though it’s highly unlikely top officials want to support a cause on the wrong side of history, will for now continue to help Washington owner Dan Snyder fight the brushfires. But to what end? Why waste all this energy when the name is going to change eventually?

 

Don’t misunderstand: I don’t think the name of a football team carries the societal importance of the Confederate flag. But wrong is wrong, offensive is offensive. And though the percentage of Native Americans who are offended by the team name is possibly not as high as the percentage of African Americans offended by the Confederate flag, what percentage of people offended would be acceptable? Twenty percent? Thirty?

 

Somebody needs to be a leader in the Washington case, the way the mayor of Charleston and the governor of South Carolina were in the wake of the tragedy there. Club owner Dan Snyder’s not going to be it; Allen certainly is smart enough to be it, but he’s too tied to Snyder, obviously. I doubt Roger Goodell could be the man to do it—now—because the team is so intent on fighting this to the death. It’s a pity. A needless pity.

 

 

 

 

Quotes of the Week

 

I

 

“In a day and age in which pictures and videos tell stories and confirm facts, in which sources and their motives are routinely questioned, and in which reporters strive to be as accurate as possible, this was the ultimate supporting proof.”

 

—ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter, to SI.com's Richard Deitsch, on tweeting a picture of Jason Pierre-Paul's medical charts in confirming that the defensive lineman had a finger amputated. Schefter, who faced heavy social media scrutiny for tweeting the picture, was open with Deitsch in an interesting Q&A published Sunday night.

 

II

 

“It was Veterans Day, and I’m a veteran, so I took the day off.”

 

—Then-Houston quarterback Ken Stabler, in 1980, to rookie beat man John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. Seems that Stabler skipped practice one November day, and the Oilers didn’t know where he was, and he came in the next day as usual. McClain found him at his locker after practice, smoking a cigarette.

 

III

 

“Snake made Johnny Manziel look like a Buddhist monk.”

 

—Retired former Raiders beat man Bob Padecky, who wrote a stunning story in the wake of Ken Stabler about the time he went to Alabama to try to interview Stabler … and found himself arrested and charged with cocaine possession. These are the kinds of stories that just don’t happen anymore.

 

IV

 

“A lot of new faces in the locker room and a lot of new coaches. I think the changes are for the good.”
      

 

—San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, to Charles Whissan of the Nevada Appeal, on all the turnover among the 49ers.

 

V

 

“When Sarah Thomas takes the field as an official at the start of the 2015 season, she will be the first woman to do so (other than in a temporary, replacement capacity) in the National Football League. I congratulate her and I wish her the very best for continued success. I also hope that Sarah Thomas is booed. When Sarah Thomas throws a flag she shouldn’t have thrown—which she will, as all officials do—she should be booed. When Sarah Thomas fails to throw a flag she should have—which she will, as all officials do—she should be booed. Sarah Thomas should be booed as loudly and as resoundingly as her male colleagues are booed. Gender equality means gender equality. And if gender equality is the expectation, all consequences that flow therefrom must be accepted, whether one likes them or not.”

 

—Amy Trask of CBS Sports, writing for The MMQB and our “The MMQB 100” series on the most influential people of the 2015 NFL season. New NFL line judge Sarah Thomas was number 19 on our list. Trask, the former Raiders CEO, wrote a smart piece about the barrier Thomas is breaking. 

 

VI

 

“It is what it is.”

 

—New England cornerback Malcolm Butler, on June 10, asked about being kept off the practice field by the team for two weeks for being late for a Patriots OTA practice.

 

See? Even when a Patriot is disciplined, his public statements take on a Belichickian air.

 

Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me

 

From the Associated Press’ daily transactions column on Friday:

 

COLLEGES

Holy Cross: Named Amanda Belichick women’s lacrosse coach.

 

Yes, that Amanda Belichick, daughter of Bill, hired to turn around the Crusaders (4-14 last year) at the Worcester-based school, 46 miles northwest of Foxboro.

 

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

 

Five vacation highlights from a vacation spent fairly close to home over the past three weeks:

 

1. Running along the Charles and around Fenway Park and down tree-lined Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. No doubt: prettiest five-mile city run in America—and I am spoiled because I get to run in Central Park.

 

2. Seeing “Amy.” The Amy Winehouse docu-movie was fantastic. Amazingly, much of Amy’s adolescent and ruinous early adulthood was caught on video, and this film shows the seamy side of what led to her death. What it also shows, too, is her brilliant talent. What an incredible voice, and what a gifted songwriter too. Tony Bennett said it in the film: She would have gone down in history with Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday as the great female jazz singers in history had she not died so young.

 

3. Seeing U2. Saw them in Boston the other night. Unique show. The combination of a huge screen nearly the length of the floor at TD Garden and the graphics and the overall setup was reminiscent of those cartoony line drawings in “Juno.” A more pensive Bono, I thought, in this show. One of the biggest cheers of a raucous night came when Bono thanked Tom Brady for his charitable work for Bono’s (RED) initiative to fight AIDS and other diseases.

 

4. Hitting PNC Park. There’s a big difference between a Friday night Pirates game in 2015 and one, say, three or four years ago. I know. I see a game in Pittsburgh most years with family, and the game I saw against Atlanta a couple of weeks ago was mostly packed. No spreading out over a few seats anymore. So good to see excitement for baseball in Pittsburgh, a downtrodden baseball town for so long.

 

5. Touring the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City. What an educational experience, seeing how the first New York immigrants lived in the 1860s, and beyond. You hear the stories of two immigrant families who raised families a few decades apart at 97 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side, in a building that’s been preserved to reflect how they lived. Just fascinating.

 

Tweets of the Week

 

I

 

 

II

 

 

This was after Greg Hardy’s suspension for assaulting his girlfriend was cut from 10 games to four games on appeal. Brady is awaiting the verdict on his four-game suspension for conspiring to deflate footballs—according to the league—last season.

 

III

 

 

Florio was referring to the July 4 hot dog eating contest on Coney Island in New York, which I despise. In a country where 16.2 million children daily do not get enough to eat (according to an agency called No Kid Hungry) because of financial constraints, adult human beings force hot dogs down their throats in a “Competitive Eating” contest. Gag me. And it’s celebrated on TV, and people write about it. Think about it, people. Think about watching on television a contest of people over-eating grotesquely. It’s sick.

 

IV

 

 

 

 

Aaron Kromer is currently the Bills offensive line coach after spending the past two seasons as the Bears offensive coordinator. (Brian D. Kersey/Getty Images) Aaron Kromer is currently the Bills offensive line coach after spending the past two seasons as the Bears offensive coordinator. (Brian D. Kersey/Getty Images)

 

 

Ten Things I Think I Think

 

1. I think my first thought when I read the sheriff’s report on the Aaron Kromer altercation with “boys” at a beach in Florida was, “What was Kromer thinking?” An arrest report from the sheriff’s office in Walton County, Fla., on Sunday claimed the Buffalo Bills’ offensive line coach—and last year’s Bears offensive coordinator on Marc Trestman’s ill-fated staff—was apparently angry that three boys used beach chairs belonging to Kromer. (I say apparently because it’s not crystal-clear from the report that Kromer owned the chairs. But that’s the clear conclusion.) 

 

According to the sheriff’s report, the boys said Kromer confronted them, and Kromer threw a fishing pole belonging to the boys into the water. Then he pushed one of the boys to the ground and punched him in the face, the report said. That boy, according to the report, “stated Kromer also told him if he reported him to the police he would kill his family.” This is very unlike the Kromer I know. But it also is due cause for the league to suspend Kromer as soon as today. League bylaws say the NFL can place an employee on either administrative leave with pay or on the Commissioner’s Exempt List (for all intents, the same thing) if an employee is “formally charged with a crime of violence … accused of having used physical force or a weapon to injure or threaten another person.” 

 

If the story is true, it’s hard to imagine Kromer coaching the Bills this season. His assistant, 36-year-old Kurt Anderson, could be elevated; Anderson is a holdover from the Doug Marrone staff, kept by Rex Ryan.

 

2. I think it's hard to fathom why the two football players who lost a total of three fingers in July 4th fireworks accidents (Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and Tampa Bay cornerback C.J. Wilson) would be so entranced by fireworks when the risk in handling them is so great. Whatever the reason, these two players are going to have to live with the consequences forever. Pierre-Paul's reaction was an odd one—ignoring the Giants and their link to some of the best hand specialists in the world. And now the Giants will have to decide how much they want to invest in an unsigned defensive end who has never shown the consistency of a Michael Strahan, though at times flashing the gifts of a top defensive end. If I'm the Giants, I'm supporting Pierre-Paul at his time of crisis, hoping he signs his one-year free-agent tender contract, though they're not certain how much production they'll get out of him this year. For now, the best idea for the Giants is to not pressure Pierre-Paul into anything; he's got to learn how to live without his lost index finger before he worries about Steve Spagnuolo's new defense.

 

 

Europe Week
 
 
The MMQB goes overseas to discover where, how and why American football is being played abroad.
 
Sweden: Teaching the game at the grass-roots level, with a little help from SpongeBob. FULL STORY
 
Italy: Kong, Nutella and half-time smoke breaks. FULL STORY
 
Germany: Europe’s Super Bowl, in the hotbed of the sport on the continent. FULL STORY
 
Switzerland: An ex-pat spreads the joy of the game through flag football. FULL STORY
 
Bjoern Werner: The Colts linebacker on growing up with the game in Germany. FULL STORY
 
MMQB: Andrew Brandt on running the Barcelona Dragons in the shadow of a soccer superpower. FULL STORY
 
 

3. I think of all the stories about Stabler I read over the weekend, this tale by John McClain about Stabler’s 1980 season in Houston was most stunning:

 

 

“In November, the Oilers went to New York to play the Jets at Shea Stadium. Stabler partied into the wee hours, blowing curfew and infuriating his coaches. Early Sunday morning, Stabler’s teammates saw him struggling to get out of a cab about the time they were preparing for the pregame meal. Hung over from his night on the town, Stabler was awful in the first half, throwing four interceptions—one returned for a touchdown—and the Oilers trailed 21-0 at halftime.

 

 

“In the dressing room at halftime, coach Bum Phillips was addressing his players, and some could hear Stabler throwing up in a bathroom area. Finally, Stabler emerged, sobered up and wiping his face with a towel. He told his teammates he was ready to go. Stabler threw four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, including one to Richard Caster to make it 28-28. The Oilers lost 31-28 in overtime, but there was another story for the Stabler legend. I once asked Stabler why it took so long for him to play after being drafted in the second round in 1968. He told me he’d been on the taxi squad, played in the Continental League, and lived in a hippie commune for his first two years.”

 

I’d love to know how an event like that would be covered today—and what a 2015 NFL head coach would do if his starting quarterback did something like that the night before a game. It’s virtually unimaginable.

 

4. I think there’s a pretty good news blackout over the Tom Brady sanction. I won’t pretend to guess what Roger Goodell will do in the next two weeks; his opinion on the appeal will almost certainly come by the time the Patriots enter training camp July 29. (For the record, Goodell’s decision on the Ray Rice punishment came on the day Baltimore opened camp last year, and there was much bitterness in Baltimore that the announcement was needlessly delayed.) It is logical to think the sanction could be cut in half for Brady, from a four-game suspension to two games. But I doubt that would be the end of the story anyway. Brady is intent on clearing his name. Why would he accept a two-game ban and the accompanying assumption of guilt?

 

5. I think I counted six “Free Brady” T-shirts at Fenway Park on Saturday night … and one “Fire Goodell” shirt.

 

6. I think my feelings about the ball-deflation findings haven’t changed: I don’t think the Wells report proved Brady directed anyone to deflate footballs. If Brady never told anyone to deflate balls under 12.5 psi before games, why should he accept any sanction? (I’m not saying Brady is innocent. I am simply saying if he knows he is, why not sue the league?)

 

7. I think sometime in the next two weeks you’ll see the league come out with a new policy on measuring the pressure in footballs before, during and after games. My best guess: Officials will chart the weights of all footballs before the game, then spot-check some at halftime and after the game. But details are still being worked out between the officiating department, Competition Committee and league game operations personnel.

 

8. I think the league is serious about considering playing a game in Brazil. The best chance is a future Pro Bowl. A fact-finding team from the NFL went to Brazil this off-season and studied sites and found heavy interest in the NFL and also found—thanks to the new stadiums built when the country hosted the World Cup in 2014—plenty of stadium sites that would be good fits for an NFL game, in terms of stadium size and sight lines for American football.

 

9. I think, on the subject of international football, there’s another interesting twist in the wake of the league’s agreement last week to play at least two games per year beginning in 2018 in the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium scheduled to open in 2018 in North London. The league could look for another London stadium to play games in beginning in 2017, with the deal with Wembley Stadium ending after 2016. The league could continue to play some games in Wembley, but it is interested in exploring other London sites too because Wembley has limited dates available in the fall. So the league will explore using Twickenham Stadium, an 82,000-seat rugby venue on the outskirts of London, for occasional games beginning in 2017. 

 

Theoretically, if the league expands to more than three games per season in England in 2018, two could be at Tottenham and one or more at Wembley and Twickenham. The NFL’s obsession with football on the continent is not going away—not when the league sells 250,000 tickets for three London games now, and not with rising TV interest in Europe. By the way, this will be the first season a package of two games per Sunday will be on TV, live, throughout Germany. The NFL would consider a game or two in Germany, but only if the local TV response is good.

 

• Jenny Vrentas on the NFL in the U.K: Can London Work? | A Better International Plan

 

 

 
 
Introducing The MMQB’s ranking of the most influential figures for the 2015 season.
 
THE LIST SO FAR
 
No. 5: Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst’s essay on his year with Russell Wilson, and what makes Wilson great. FULL STORY
 
Nos. 6-10: How Rich McKay, chair of competition committee, navigated the NFL through a change in its scoring. Plus, Manning, Rodgers, Jerry Jones and Stan Kroenke. FULL STORY
 
Nos. 11-20: Amy Trask, the first female CEO in NFL history, on what Sarah Thomas, the league’s first female official, will face in her first season. Plus, Watt, Luck, Peterson and Robert Kraft. FULL STORY
 
Nos. 21-30: How Sam Bradford fits into Chip Kelly’s master plan. Plus, RG3, Brees, Rex Ryan and Suh. FULL STORY
 
Nos. 31-40: Long essay on Odell Beckham Jr., who is poised to take over the NFL in 2015, plus, Jimmy Graham, Andy Dalton, Gronk and more. FULL STORY
 
Nos. 41-50: Long essay on Mark Rodgers, the man negotiating Russell Wilson's new contract, plus Richard Sherman, Jimmy Garoppolo and more. FULL STORY
 
Nos. 51-60: Long essay on Bears QB Jay Cutler. Plus, Cam Newton, NaVorro Bowman, DeMarco Murray and more. FULL STORY
 
Nos. 61-70: Long essay on the late Junior Seau. Plus, Darrell Bevell, Cris Collinsworth and more. FULL STORY
 

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

 

 

a. I can’t figure out which weekend sports moment was better: the second-set tiebreaker in the Wimbledon’s men’s final between two incredible athletes, or the Andrew McCutchen come-from-behind, walk-off homer in the 14th inning for the Pirates over the archrival Cards. If I had to pick, I’d take the tennis, which—and I’m not tennis authority—is about as good as the sport gets.

 

b. And Serena Williams’ mastery of her game … I doubt there is a more dominant athlete in any sport today.

 

c. At least now we know what your word is worth, DeAndre Jordan.

 

d. Just one more example why I love National Public Radio is here, capturing an incredible story on the youngest country in the world, South Sudan, through the eyes of a citizen who desperately wants to make it a great country.

 

e. What a fantastic idea: The NHL will play three-on-three overtime next season. Shootouts stink. This is a better solution.

 

f. If I were the NHL (which is tough, because leagues are not people), I’d expand to Seattle and Quebec City, and eventually move the Arizona team to Las Vegas.

 

g. Seattle would be a great NHL town. And Quebec, come now. Do you even have to ask?

 

h. What a great and redemptive story by Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, about the toll addiction takes on a family.

 

i. Now that’s about as important a story as you’ll read, if you have children.

 

j. Somebody please take the pins out of the Joel Embiid voodoo doll. Man, is that horrible luck for Embiid, lost for another year with that foot injury.

 

k. Congrats to you, Brock Holt. The best utility player in baseball gets recognized for being able to play seven positions, and play them defensively at a level of average or better.

 

l. Wait until next year, Sox fans. Nothing’s changed about this team since April 1. Not nearly enough pitching.

 

m. Alex Rodriguez should be in the All-Star Game, but arguing about who plays in the Midsummer Classic is old and tired, and I won’t waste your time with more than one sentence about it here.

 

n. Dee Gordon’s the latest to be victimized by the dumbest play in baseball, the hand-first slide into first base. The Miami All-Star dislocated his thumb on the play. A human being doesn’t arrive at first base faster with a head-first slide than he would by simply sprinting through the bag.

 

o. While I was on vacation, Andy Benoit of The MMQB got in social-media hot water in the midst of the Women’s World Cup excitement for tweeting that he had no interest in women’s soccer, and no interest in any women’s sport for that matter. Many of you were furious with Benoit for the anti-woman stance. At least two of you on Twitter asked me to fire him. Seth Myers and Amy Poehler skewered Benoit in a clever skit. My response: I am a women’s sports supporter; my two daughters played lots of sports growing up, and I had more fun at their softball and field hockey games in high school than I remember having at my own high school games. I loved watching the Women’s World Cup games. I was in a group of people—including Benoit and our staff—during one of the early-round games, and I asked that the TV in the room be put on the U.S.-Nigeria game over Game 6 of the Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals (though the soccer game was over when the basketball game was still in the first quarter). Anyway, I disagree with Andy. Fervently. But I’m not going to tell Andy what sports to like, and what not to like. He’s one of the best analysts of the inner game of football today, and that’s what he’s being paid to do—analyze football. There may be some of you who say that because of Andy’s stance you’re going to stop reading him, or stop reading our site, and that is your right. But I won’t punish one of our staff members because he says he doesn’t like women’s sports.

 

p. Coffeenerdness: Madness of Starbucks Dept.: Often, I bring my reusable cup to Starbucks. Often the barista will take a small cup as a receptacle for the three or four shots of espresso for my drink, depending on the size, pour the shots into my cup, then toss the small cup away. You’re supposed to be eliminating waste, not causing more of it.

 

q. Beernerdness: My top four new beers from my time off:

 

Namaste (Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, Del.). As the readers of this column know, I love Allagash White, the fantastic white beer from Maine. Namaste is very close. Extremely close. It might be better—with a slight bolder taste. But that’s like picking between the ’60s Packers and the ’70s Steelers. This is one great beer.

 

 

Blood Orange Pale Ale (Great South Bay Brewery, Bay Shore, N.Y.). Hard to imagine a tastier, more subtle orange taste in an ale. First tasted it at Citi Field in June, and had to have three. Just splendid.

 

 

Catamount Maple Wheat (Harpoon Brewing, Boston). This is one of those limited-batch beers available only at the pub inside the brewery on the Boston waterfront, so you likely won’t have a chance to taste it. I’m hoping it comes back this fall. When I drank it on Friday, a dark and rich brew with just a subtle hint of maple, my first thought was: “Perfect Thanksgiving beer.”

 

 

Crux Half Hitch Imperial Mosaic Pale Ale (Crux Fermentation Project, Bend, Ore.). One of the best noses I’ve ever experienced in beerdom. It’s a strong pine smell, with some citrus and lots of strong fruit. And the taste is good too … just be careful. It’s 9.5 percent alcohol content. Half a beer sometimes is just fine.

 

r. Kudos, Howard Ulman, on your 45 years covering Boston sports for the Associated Press. Ulman is retiring.

 

s. Congrats on your wedding, Josh Elliott. Happy to see you so happy.

 

t. Hope to see many of you at the Boomer Esiason four-miler in Central Park Saturday. It’s for a great cause—the fight against cystic fibrosis.

 

u. Well, Atticus Finch, what do you have to say for yourself?

 

v. Join me in welcoming a new member of The MMQB family today, straight off the Northwestern campus: Kalyn Kahler will be our administrative assistant/writer/training camp traveling secretary/driver of long distances/jack-of-all-journalism-trades. Welcome, Kalyn. And bon voyage, Andy DeGory. Andy was invaluable in helping us get off the ground the past two years, a workhorse who was good at every task.

 

The Adieu Haiku

 

 

 

 

Something I don't get:

 

Players who love fireworks.

Let pros handle, please.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

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